Texas Tech is coming off of an impressive win over Mississippi State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to send off now-Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Cumbie with a win after he was named interim Red Raiders coach following the firing of Matt Wells. Since then, Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt hired Joey McGuire away from his assistant head coach position at Baylor, giving him his first college head-coaching job.
McGuire, a former Cedar Hill HS head coach, was quick in filling his staff, which boasts experience across the high school and college ranks. McGuire brought in Tim DeRuyter from Oregon as defensive coordinator and Zach Kittley to guide the offense. Kittley learned from former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and is considered one of the best young offensive minds in the game.
McGuire and other coaches have stated that Wells and his staff, despite the firing, left the program with a solid foundation of culture that the new staff can build on. McGuire, like Wells, has hit the transfer portal, but McGuire also is already proving to be a big-time hit on the high school recruiting trail based off of his time in the high school ranks and his numerous connections across the state.
Previewing Texas Tech's Offense for 2022
The Red Raider identity in recent years has been a fast-paced offense that puts up points. At his former stop at WKU, Kittley guided Bailey Zappe to a prolific, record-breaking season at QB. Now, he has a QB room with Tyler Shough, Donovan Smith and Behren Morton competing for the starting spot. Smith might have a slight edge with 11 game appearances and four starts under his belt. Shough is coming off of an injury but was a highly touted get for Wells and Co. when he transferred from Oregon. If he's fully healthy, Shough is capable of being the starter like he was in Week 1 of last year.
Wideout Erik Ezukanma has left for the NFL, so younger receivers like Loic Fouonji, Trey Cleveland and J.J. Sparkman will have to step up, although all have some experience under their belts. The running backs will once again be headlined by SaRodorick Thompson, but expect to see Tahj Brooks and Cam'Ron Valdez get reps to help in their development.
The offensive line will have to replace three starters from last year in center Dawson Deaton, tackle T.J. Storment and guard Josh Burger. Transfers Cole Spencer, Michael Shanahan and Cade Briggs will look to move into starting roles following the big departures up front.
Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2022
The defense has been more of a question mark in years past than the offense, but the Red Raiders have found recent success and have even turned some defenders into Sunday guys — leaving some big shoes to fill.
In the trenches, Tony Bradford Jr., Tyree Wilson and Jaylon Hutchings all return and can be veteran voices on the defensive side of the ball. McGuire and his assistants have said that Wilson's upside is huge; he'll be a hybrid player who can put his hand down and rush the passer or drop into coverage in the flat. The Raiders want opposing offenses to have to be aware of where Wilson is at all times.
Things get hazy at linebacker because of the loss of Riko Jeffers and Colin Schooler. Now, Krishon Merriweather and likely Jesiah Pierre will be the guys in the middle for McGuire. Schooler, who transferred from Arizona in 2020, was the active FBS leader in career tackles and career tackles for a loss upon his departure, and he finished his career fourth on the school ledger in career solo tackles. Eric Monroe and DaMarcus Fields are also out of the door in Lubbock, but the depth created by the former staff now shines through with familiar faces like Reggie Pearson Jr., Adrian Frye and Marquis "Muddy" Waters likely filling in some starting roles on DeRuyter's defense. Overall, the defense will look similar to last season's, provided that Merriweather can adjust to being the main man in the middle.
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2022
Previewing Texas Tech's Specialists for 2022
Jonathan Garibay nailed a 62-yard field goal against Iowa State as time expired to send the Red Raiders to the postseason. Garibay drilled 60-plus yarders in late March at his pro day in Lubbock — meaning that he'll be needing a replacement next season. Trey Wolff has been on the team for a few seasons and handled kickoffs last year. He'll be in competition to replace Garibay as field goal specialist as will Gino Garcia, a FCS Houston Baptist transfer. Austin McNamara continues to be the Red Raider punter with tons of accolades behind him from previous seasons. Speed can be found throughout the Red Raider roster. With that said, guys like Chadarius Townsend, Myles Price, Brooks and Frye could be returning punts and kickoffs this season for Texas Tech.
Under McGuire, Texas Tech will try to take the next step to that "elite" status that Hocutt talked about prior to hiring Wells. Immediate results may be hard to come by for McGuire and Co., but recruiting has been solid for the well-connected staff. Returning players at skill positions will aid in a smooth transition from a bowl-winning roster, but holes to fill on the offensive line will be a priority if this group wants to return to the postseason. Another important step will be to find a starting QB from among the three guys who are capable of filling the role. If Merriweather can fill the middle as well as Schooler did, expect the Texas Tech defense to keep taking strides toward being a successful unit. The experience that this staff inherited puts them ahead of schedule, but the Red Raiders will be seeking tangible results instead of "moral victories."